Do you like it? Does it nourish you? Do you feel strengthened and inspired after using it? And if not, why do you keep using it?
Those were the questions I wanted to answer for myself, as I took a three-month break from social media this summer. Facebook has been the platform I've been using the most and it's also the one that has caused me the most headache. (I know that's the case for many of you too.) I figured a few months off would give me some perspective on the whole circus.
And it did.
Here are five things to be loved and disliked about social media in general and Facebook in particular plus the decisions we need to make in order to reclaim our time and peace of mind:
I love how easy it is to connect. And how truly global it is. I've made friends on the other side of the planet. I doubt it could have happened like that without social media.
On the other hand, social media has only been part of our lives for ten years or so, and it's not like we didn't connect or meet new people before that. If we didn't have it, we'd stay in touch with the ones who truly matter some other way (email, phone calls, texting, pen and paper!). Of course we would.
The same goes for marketing and business. Social media has opened new doors, but we did business before too, did we not? And it's not like we'd have to opt out of the whole online world if we chose to let go of social media.
2. The age of cute kittens
There is a lot of ... shall we call it shallow ... content on Facebook. It's often easier to get likes for comic nonsense than for sharing high quality stuff. Our preferences seem to side with the quick and smooth.
There are exceptions to this. Facebook or Twitter can be phenomenal channels for spreading urgent news, a pressing request, a call to action, and when things go viral, they have a reach that is just not possible to achieve elsewhere, as far as I'm aware.
But there's also the difference between hitting like and actually engaging with something. If a post gets thousands of likes, does that mean thousands of people are truly engaged in the particular topic discussed? Hardly. Most of us just browse through our feeds, clicking like as we go, occasionally voicing an opinion on what we see or read.
3. Plenty of opinions = plenty of commitment?
In fact, I think we're starting to confuse airing an opinion with making a difference. Sometimes speaking our minds is the right and powerful thing to do, but more often than not, social media seem to invite a kind of reckless throwing about of opinions, just for the sake of it. And every now and then, some particularly loud person accuses the not so loud for not speaking out, not taking a stand, not PARTICIPATING.
As if voicing an opinion equals making a true difference. It sure doesn't. Most of the good work in this world goes unnoticed, receiving neither attention nor likes. I dare say most of what's good in your life happens outside of the online world too. Life is still about the touching, breathing, tasting and moving.
4. Sharing made simple
But then I stumble upon some little gem in the never-ending feed, some small pocket of authenticity and love that for a moment make all the hassle of social media seem worthwhile. Someone manages to strike a magical cord in her posts, to share openly and beautifully about herself and things that matter. There's even a quality of effortlessness to it. And people respond.
True connection happens. I love that. I'm impressed by that kind of sharing, and curious about it, since it doesn't come naturally to me at all.
Social media has certainly taught me a lot about creating and sharing quicker, with less perfectionism. It has helped me to challenge the fear of rejection and judgement. To just share, regardless of outcome. But effortlessness? No. Not yet.
If you want to practice sharing without attachment to outcome, social media will do the job like no other teacher. Whatever attachments you have, whatever cravings for approval and appreciation is lurking behind your posts, they will blow up right in your face when your post only get three likes.
You will then have a perfect opportunity to look deeper into why you are sharing, and what you - if you're honest - are trying to trade your expression for. (But, let's face it; most people don't use social media for that purpose. We just like to get likes.)
Either way, to me, this is the best part of social media: sharing made easy. The worst part is how it distracts and interrupts not just our thoughts and our work but the way we interact in real life as well.
5. Exit focus, enter scatterbrain
After spending time on Facebook, I often feel scattered, flustered, stressed out and lost. Overwhelmed, simply, and that's a state of mind I try to steer clear of these days. Overwhelm is the opposite of spaciousness, and spaciousness is my lifeblood.
I need space inside and outside to live, love and create wholeheartedly. I also need focus and uninterrupted time, and social media is not really compatible with that.
Most people seem to agree on this. And most people seem to be willing to trade that focus for whatever it is we win by staying logged in.
For it to be worth that sacrifice, you must either get some other meaningful payoff - like connection and reach in your business. Or you must simply like it. Love it, even. Maybe you actually feel energized, inspired, strong and ready to go after you log out.
For me, I do see the meaningful interactions and the awesome reach it has offered my business. But I certainly don't love it.
I don't like how we miss out on who and what's in front of us because we're constantly attached to a screen. I don't like what it does to our everyday interactions; I don't like what it does to our kids - their ability to focus on one thing at a time, their ability to sink into the quiet, slow (boring!) time required for making new discoveries, their ability to rest in the feeling that this life, right here in front of us, is enough.
And the fact that I don't like it is enough information for me to act on. I need to make conscious choices myself, before trying to teach my kids the art of discernment.
These conscious choices could be quitting altogether, or setting some rules about how and when (and more importantly - when not), or using Facebook for business but not for personal use, or vice versa.
I'm giving myself another six months off to think it through. And for it to be a fresh start if and when I come back, I'm deleting my accounts. Yep, all of it. That way, re-entering this world will demand a conscious choice, and whatever presence and following I will build from there will reflect the person I am today, not the one I was eight years ago, when I first joined.
The thought of it brings a smile to my face right now.
Here's to exercising the freedom to choose.